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Linda Carty

Volume 720: debated on Thursday 8 July 2010


Asked By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to the United States authorities about reprieving Linda Carty.

My Lords, we are committed to using all appropriate influence to prevent the execution of any British national, and that is certainly our starting point in this case. In the case of Linda Carty, we are supporting her efforts to get clemency in Texas. We are in close consultation with Miss Carty’s lawyers and with the NGO Reprieve, and we are planning our representations carefully with them. This is a sensitive case, and I hope that the House will understand that it would not be sensible for me to go into further detail while these discussions are taking place. I will add one further thing. Since Linda Carty potentially faces the death penalty, I am sure that the House will wish to know that the Government reaffirm the position taken by our predecessors on the death penalty.

My Lords, I thank the Minister very much for that reply, and particularly for the last sentence, which I am sure will be welcomed across the House. The opposition to the use of the death penalty in all countries and in all circumstances was something that the previous Government were much attached to, and it is very welcome that the new Government are taking that on board.

Linda Carty, a Briton from the island of St Kitts, has been on death row in Texas for nine years. Her trial has been described as a travesty; the provision of her defence counsel was a joke; and the founder of Reprieve described this as,

“a most desperate, outrageous miscarriage of justice”.

Will all possible efforts be made, including the possibility of the Prime Minister speaking to the Governor of Texas? Can I also have an assurance that Ministers will agree to meet members of Miss Carty’s family if they request such a meeting?

My Lords, this is a very difficult case and I do not want to comment from the government Benches on its conduct so far. It is very clear that Miss Carty is now in a very difficult situation. We are focusing our efforts not at the federal level but at the state level, because that is the right place. I do not exclude our doing anything necessary to help this lady in any way that is proper and effective.

My Lords, I visited the women’s prison in Gatesville in Texas in 2006. I spent some time on death row and met all the women there, including Linda Carty. I remember it as clearly as though it were yesterday, and there is no doubt in my mind that this is a very sad case and that that is a very sad place. Does the Minister agree that this is not just a question of opposing the death penalty, which, quite rightly, we do—I, too, was most grateful to hear her commitment to continuing that stance—but that it is also probably a huge miscarriage of justice? Although I do not wish to ask the noble Baroness to say anything that could jeopardise the negotiations, I ask her to assure the House that this issue will stay very near the top of the agenda for as long as Linda Carty is alive and that everything will be done at every stage to try to secure a reconsideration of her case.

My Lords, I can give the House that assurance. I hope that noble Lords will also accept that, in Linda Carty’s interests, we need to be able to judge the appropriate methodology. Therefore, the fact that we do not necessarily hear a lot all the time does not mean that we are not trying to take the most effective action that we can.

Is the Minister aware that Mexico and Germany took the United States to the International Court of Justice and obtained a ruling that under international law it was illegal to execute a person who had not had the benefit of consular protection? Is the Minister aware that the lawyer who acted for Miss Carty did not obtain such protection? Will this Government take a step similar to that taken by Mexico and Germany in respect of their nationals?

My Lords, my noble friend is right to say that part of the problem in this case was that we were not notified by the Texas authorities, as should have been the case. That is one reason why our ability to help Miss Carty has come rather late in the day. As for the approach to the International Court of Justice, I am aware of that precedent. Our current advice is that it is not necessarily particularly helpful, but I certainly do not rule out pursuing that route if we have grounds to believe that it will help.

Is the Minister also aware that President George W Bush tried to give effect to the Mexican and German cases, where the ICJ gave the rulings, but was unable to do so because of the recalcitrance of the state authorities? Does that not illustrate the great problem that this Government now have in deciding on the methodology?